Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on Salvation by countering Protestants’ claim that “No One Can Snatch Us.”
Broussard begins this next chapter on salvation by presenting the following Bible passage as one that Protestants often use as a proof text for absolute assurance of salvation for the believer:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – John 10:27-29
Roman Catholicism in contrast teaches that a person is saved by sacramental grace and merit, and that after initial justification (i.e., baptism), salvation can be lost with the very next mortal sin. Broussard agrees that while no external power can snatch a “believer” out of the Father’s hands, he asserts the “believer” can willfully forfeit salvation by sinning. Broussard offers the following two passages as proof texts:
John 15:4-6: “I am the vine; you are the branches…If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Matthew 24:45-51: Describes the wicked servant who is cut in pieces by the returning Master and consigned with the hypocrites.
Let’s begin our rebuttal of Broussard’s argument by defining our terms. Gospel Christians and Catholics disagree on what constitutes a “believer.” Gospel Christians hold that all those who repent of sin and accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone are believers, while Catholics assert that all those who are baptized and attempt to attain salvation via sacramental grace and merit are “believers.” With that important distinction made, let’s look at Broussard’s proof texts.
In John 15:4-6, “abide” is mentioned five times. The abiding believer is the only genuine believer. A person who is genuinely saved in Christ will continue to abide in Christ through God’s power and will necessarily bear fruit. Those who never bear fruit were never genuinely saved. Some commentators suggest that the fruitless branches in this passage refer rather to the unworthy works of wood, hay, and straw of a disobedient believer that will be destroyed, while the believer himself/herself will still be saved (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). I tend to lean towards the first interpretation rather than the latter. The article far below, “Does the vine and branches passage in John 15 mean that salvation can be lost?,” provides a good explanation of this passage.
In Matthew 24:45-51, the wicked “servant” (Greek: δοῦλος, doulos, slave) refers to a pseudo-Christian, an unbeliever. In Jesus’s illustration, being a servant/slave did not equate to being a genuinely saved child of God. The wicked servant/slave in this passage is a false believer. False professors must one day stand before the Lord and give an account of their sinful life.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:21-23
Genuine believers will abide in Christ. Neither externals or personal sin can remove a genuine believer from Christ and from the Father’s hand. The Bible declares believers are born again into God’s family, adopted by God, when they trust in Christ:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:14-17
Being born again doesn’t mean perfection in this world. Believers will continue to sin. Only Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life. Does God “unadopt” a believer out of His family every time they sin, only to adopt them back again if/when they confess, and over and over and over? Such is the Catholic view. Genuine believers will desire to joyfully follow the Lord in obedience, albeit imperfectly.
But what of those people who claimed to have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but never bore any fruit and may have even renounced God? What about those Bible verses and passages that seemingly refer to apostates? The Bible says such persons never genuinely accepted Christ.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” – 1 John 2:19
Apostates are those pew sitters (and even ministry workers) who never genuinely trusted in Christ and eventually ended their charade.
Important: Roman Catholics profess to be “Christians,” yet seek to establish their own righteousness as their means to salvation, rather than submitting to God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 10:3).
The two articles below are very helpful in this discussion of the assurance of a genuine believer:
Does the vine and branches passage in John 15 mean that salvation can be lost?
If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?
Next up: “Sanctified For All Time”